One of the most important issues that the present day international community is faced with is Iran’s nuclear program. Since the year 2002 there has been a lot of controversy, apprehension and suspicions regarding the nature of the Iranian Nuclear program. Since then the E3+3 nations as well as United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly appealed to the Iranian government to display transparency in all its nuclear endeavors and cooperate with the international community. Meier and Quille (2005, p. 5) assert that the engagement of the E3 group in the Iranian issue was to many observers one of the most important acts which put the capacity of the European union to persuade a rogue state to transform its conduct for the better. According to Und and Osten (2013), ran has become a very urgent issue for the international community since it is alleged that the Iranian government continuously infringes upon the stipulations of the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Security Council and refuses to put a stop to its nuclear programs. In addition to this, the nation of Iran has been accused of
indicating its unwillingness to cooperate with these two bodies and provide comprehensive answers and explanations on the subject of the presence of a military facet in its nuclear program. Leverett and Mann (2013) are however convinced that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the manner in which the international community has responded to the Iranian issue; as a matter of fact, the united States of America has been accused of “self-righteously” and “hypocritically” applying the international law when it is beneficial to them and ignoring it when it is not. According to Cubin (2013) claims that the most ironic aspect of the debate on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program is the fact that the Iranian nuclear program has become one of the most defining political matters of the
present day in spite of the fact that a majority of the details regarding the alleged nuclear programs in Iran are clouded with secrecy.
Although the nation of Iran has publicly indicated its pursuit of peacefully nuclear energy which will be used to cater for the needs of its populace which has increased to twice the number it was during the 1979 revolution, the government of Iran has fervently refuted claims that Iran is engaged in the development of nuclear weapons (Chubin, 2013). This is in spite of the fact that Iran has on may occasions boasted of its increased capacities in the enrichment of Uranium (an ability that is easily utilized in power production of for weapon programs). Moreover, Kerr (2012, p. 2) claims the International Atomic Energy Agency has neither authoritatively stated that Iran has indeed pursued nuclear weapons nor has it been able to affirm that the nuclear program in Iran is intended for peaceful intents. Clearly, the issue of Iran and its
alleged nuclear activities is indeed a very controversial one. This paper aims at objectively and critically deliberating upon the issue of the Iranian nuclear program as well as if, and how, it affects the security of Europe. This paper will begin with a depiction of the history of nuclear activities in Iran as well as the current activities of Iran as regards nuclear pursuits. The security threat posed by Iran’s nuclear pursuits to the European community as well as the response of the European Union to the Iranian issue will also be analyzed in detail. Forecasts about the trends expected in Iran’s nuclear program in the future will also be discussed in detail before a summative conclusion of the essay and the list of references cited here in is drafted.
2.0.0 History of Iranian Nuclear Program
The nuclear program in Iran was called off and terminated after the 1979 revolution; nevertheless, after the military confrontation with Iraq which lasted 1980 to 1988, the nuclear programs were renewed. Chubin (2013) posits that there are several reasons which may have prompted Iran to engage in secret nuclear Programs. The major reason for the revival of Iran’s nuclear programs after the 1979 revolution was so that Iran could defend itself in case of any unexpected invasions in the future by nations utilizing chemical weapons in a manner similar to
Iraq. It is also noteworthy that out of the 9 nuclear powers in the world Iran has 5 either on its borders or in very close proximity. The evolution of the nuclear program in Iran began in the 1980s when the nation was alienated from the rest of the world as it engaged Iraq in war. Iraq had a nuclear weapons program as well as an adequate quantity of chemical weapons which it used to devastate Iran. The history of the nuclear program in Iran can be divided into three main stages (Chubin, 2013).
Stage I: 1987-2002
For these 15 years during the initial phases of nuclear activities in the nation of Iran, the political elite in Tehran as well as the Iranian general public was in general agreement that Iran should indeed pursue and continue with its nuclear programs. Apart from offering Iran the prospect of scientific growth and an autonomous source of energy, the pursuit of a nuclear program in Iran was supported by the public since it was a demonstration of Iran asserting its rights as a self respecting and sovereign state (Chubin, 2013). The nuclear
program in nation of Iran during this period very slow since Iran was confronted with the challenge of establishing effective frameworks of leadership and management as well as acquiring the technology that was needed for successful development and operation of nuclear plants. Iran’s difficulty in attaining the technology it required was confounded by the fact that such technology had to be surreptitiously acquired from nations abroad. It was not long before the United States of America became suspicious of Iran’s objectives and sought to impede Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology (Chubin, 2013). In spite of this Iran was able to receive the assistance it needed from American opposition. A light water reactor that had been previously endorsed by the American government at Bushehr; this was during the reign of Shah. The nation of Iran defied international opposition and went ahead to acquire technology from Pakistan networks headed by A. Q. Khan.
Stage 2: 2003-2005
The second phase of nuclear programs in Iran commenced in the
year 2002. This period was characterized by an increased interest in the nation’s nuclear activities by the Iranian elite in the political scene. The Supreme National Security Council in Tehran- perceived as the nation’s voice- stipulated all political activities in Iran. According to Kerr (2012, p. 2) points out that in the year 2002 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carried out investigations to conform whether or not the nation of Iran had indeed involved itself in the perpetration of secret nuclear activities. After carrying out the investigations it was discovered that Iran had indeed set up a secret enrichment facility at Natanz. According to Kerr (2012, p. 2) the International Atomic Energy Agency also revealed that Iran had infringed upon the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguard consensus by Tehran. Coincidentally this revelation about Iran was made at the same time when the united States of America had indicated its growing concern regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups and rogue administrations. In order to quiet down the issue President Mohammad Khatami and his administration mana
ged to persuade the Supreme National Security Council in Iran to honor at least 50% of the international stipulations. Chubin (2013) points out that it was then that the Iranian nation agreed to commit itself to the Additional Protocol of the Non Proliferation Treaty which would expose the nation of Iran to very stringent inspections by the international community; this is regardless of the fact that Iran never actually ratified the protocol.
During this second phase Iran was unable to come to a consensus with the European Union, particularly the nations of Britain, France and Germany. The prospects of the European union launching a military offensive on Iran in order to force it to comply were also very slim since the United States of America was engaged in war at Iraq. In the year 2004 a change of power occurred in Iran and the government got into the hands of hardliners who felt that the previous administration had been too lenient with the European Union and in the process compromised the interests of Iran. By the advent of the year 2005, the new President of Iran- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-, with the support of the Supreme National Security Council’s leader in Tehran had completely abandoned the deal with the European union had revived uranium enrichment programs (C
Stage 3: 2005-2010
The politicization of the Iran Nuclear program issue was at its climax at this stage. As already indicated, by the advent of the year 2005 the Iranian parliament was comprised of political leaders that were either conservative or hardliners. Ayatolla Ali Khamenei (the supreme leader) and President Ahmadinejad openly criticized and isolated the reformists in Iran by portraying them as defeatists who were really to lose their patriotism and compromise the interests of the Iranian nation. During this stage discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear pursuits were put off. Consequently, rather than engage in informed discussions, the general public in Iran resorted to the utilization of banknotes and slogans to champion for the “rights” of Iran to conduct its nuclear activities. The Iranian President Ahmadinejad is even quoted as stating that the nuclear program in Iran was “like a train without brakes” (Chubin, 2013).
This period was also characterized by a number of issues
in the domestic affairs of Iran Between 2006-2010 the United Nations inflicted a number of United Nation resolutions as well as punitive sanctions on the nation of Iran. This action, coupled with more stringent unilateral sanctions by the United States of America and European Union served to open the eyes of the Iranian public to the cost that they had to pay for their continuous defiance of the international community. As if this was not enough, in the year 2009 the general elections in Iran were clouded with allegations of rigging and fraud. The annunciation of President Ahmadinejad as the winner in this disputed election brought about the most extensive revolt against the Iranian administration since the year 1979. A majority of conservatives as well as the members of the emergent Green Movement in Iran had a number of concerns regarding President Ahmadinejad, particularly his poor management of Iran’s financial systems. Chubin (2013) claims that barely 4 months after the elections President Ahmadinejad gave his consensus to the interim pact by the United States of America whose main objective was to open up the path for a deliberation of Iran’s long term prog
ram regarding its nuclear pursuits. In similar manner to other deals that it had committed itself to in the past regarding its nuclear program, it was not long before Iran abandoned this interim deal with the US.
Iran’s Recent Activities
According to Zarif (2012) the nation of Iran is currently at the verge of nuclear weapon capacity. The expansions in the activities of Uranium enrichment at Natanz and Fordow have played a very significant role in lessening the amount of time that Iran requires to generate fuel for the development of an atomic weapon (Zarif, 2012). In addition to this, the nation of Iran has significantly amplified its uranium enriched stock pile by an estimated 20%. This amount would only require a very minimal amount of time at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) or the underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) to be converted to a weapon grade levels estimated at grade level 90% (Zarif, 2012). More over the Iranian administration is engaged in the construction of infrastructure for the opening out of the FFEP so as to establish an estimated 2,000 more centrifuges.
The IAEA Board of Governors (2012, p. 3) claim that the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Iran had two production halls (Hall A and B), with each unit being comprised of 18 cascades. By the 19th of February 19th 2012, 54 cascades were installed in 3 out of the 8 units in Hall A and were revealed to be fed with UF6. Iran also increased the number of centrifuges in each cascade from 164-174. There are certain facts regarding the Iranian nuclear program that are very noteworthy. Firstly, Bushehr has a reactor which is light water and has a 1,000 megawatt capacity. This reactor, which took an estimated one and a half decade to complete, was established by Russia. The deal between Russia and Iran is that Russia presents Iran with the required fuel and that Iran has to return the utilized fuel rods to Russia. An average reactor approximately requires a minimum of ten years to set up and an estimated $ 1 billion to set off the project. This figure is on the lower side since Iran is expected to be confronted with greater costs not only due to inflation but also the myriad of sanctions that have been imposed on the nation by the international community. Chubin (2013) points out that the nation of Iran visualizes an energy project comprised of at least 10-12 rea
ctors with the capacity to produce an estimated 24,000 megawatts and a number of enrichment plants. A major point of concern for the European Union is the fact that Iran is also setting up at Arak a heavy-water plant.
3.0.0 Iranian Nuclear Program and European Security
The nuclear activities by Iran are perceived as being one of the greatest threats to European Union member states in the present day. As a matter of fact, Bailes (2006, p. 130) describes the issue of Iranian nuclear program as the “hardest issues of military security in the outside world”. Brussels (2013, p. 1) claims that, for a very long time, the main objective of the European Union has been to create a mutually beneficial and productive alliance with the Iranian nation. However, since the year 2005 the relationship between Iran and the European Union has been clouded with a lot of suspicion, mistrust and controversy as a consequence of Iran’s nuclear program. Meier (2013) points out that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would not only have serious repercussions for regional security but also for the global community which is committed to ensuring that nuclear weapons are not further proliferated. It would be catastrophic if such weapons were to fall in the hands of rogue nations or terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. According to Kerr (2012, p.
2) the nuclear program in nation of Iran has brought about increased concerns about Iran being engaged in the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Shear and Sanger (2013) claim that tensions are rising in the international arena, particularly in the nations that are member states of the European union regarding the length of time that remains before the nation of Iran can make use of a nuclear weapon. This threat has become so real since the American Preside, Barrack Obama, was quoted as stating that “Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close” (Shear and Sanger, 2013).
According to Kerr (2012, p. 2) the major cause for proliferation concern for the European union is the fact that Tehran has engaged in the establishment of gas centrifuge-based uranium enrichment facilities. Gas centrifuges have the capacity to enrich uranium by engaging in activities that spin uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds so as to increase the concentration of isotope -235 in the uranium. Such gas centrifuges have the capacity to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) as well as low-enriched Uranium (LEU). Kerr (2012, p. 2) reveals that
while LEU is mostly utilized in powering nuclear energy reactors, HEU is one part of the two fissile substance that is utilized in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that Iran claims this heavy water plant at Arak has been set up for the purpose of manufacturing medical isotopes, it is a major source of concern for the European community since, as indicated by Kerr (2012, p. 2), the spent fuel from the reactor will be composed of plutonium which is significant in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The government of Iran however claims that it has not intention of engaging in the procedure of “reprocessing” through which plutonium can be separated from spent fuel so as to be utilized in nuclear weapon production.
4.0.0 European Union’s Repose to Iranian Nuclear Program
As indicated by Meier (2013) the most important accomplishment by the European union in its response to the issue of Iranian nuclear activities is the fact that the European union has been able to hinder any form of escalation. After the discovery of Iran’s nuclear activities it was feared that the US might make use of military intervention to force Iran to comply. The issue of Iran and its nuclear activities emerged barely a year before the announcement by
North Korea on the 11th of January of the year 2003 that it was withdrawing from the Non Proliferation Treaty of 1969. At the same time, military intervention was validated in Iraq due to its possession of weapons of mass destruction. El-Baradei (2011, p. 114) posits that it was on the 21st and 22nd of February in the year 2013 that the IAEA made its first visit to the underground enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran and realized the need to reevaluate the nuclear programs by Iran. In addition to this, the European Union has been able to enforce unity amongst all member states. Meier (2013) indicates that by September 2005 “About a half-dozen EU member nations—among them Italy, Spain and Portugal—[were] openly questioning the authority of France, Britain and Germany to negotiate a resolution at the board meeting on behalf of the European Union” .
Meier (2013) purports that there have been a number of efforts by the European Union for come up with feasible diplomatic solutions which effectively respond to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. The commitment of the European Union towards this end has been as a consequence of the stakes for international security being very high. In more than a decade since the issue of nuclear programs in Iran became an issue of international concern, Meier (2013) asserts that the European union has endeavored to come up with peaceful solutions. This is due to the fact that a military intervention in Iran with the intention of hindering or at least delaying Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would not only increase the tensions in the region but also possibly trigger a major military confrontation between Iran and Europe (Meier, 2013). It is for this reason that the European union has injected a large amount of monetary resources, time and political energy so as to “to achieve a comprehensive, negotiated, long-term settlement which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, while respecting Iran’s legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the Non Proliferation Treaty” .
According to Ford (2008, p. 14) the European union, particularly the united states of America has inclined towards the utilization of isolation and sanctions in an effort to make Iran comply to the international standards and regulations regarding involvement in nuclear activities. Cutler (2012) reveals that on August 2010 the EU prohibited the establishment of joint ventures in Iran’s oil and gas industries. On May 2011 increased the number of companies prohibited by 100; the new entities included those under IRISIL. On the 23rd of January the EU placed an emergency ban on all new contract aimed at the importation, acquisition or haulage of petroleum products and crude oil from Iran. Cutler (2012) indicates that barely two months later, on April 2012 the number of entities enlisted on EU ban list increased to 440 and included the Iranian Central bank.
In spite of the fact that Iran is a sovereign state with a right to peaceful nuclear energy as indicated in Non Proliferation Treaty, the international community is aware of the danger that nuclear weaponization by Iran may pose to European security. The European Union has engaged in a number of efforts whose main intention has been to isolate Iran from the international fiscal system so as to impede its nuclear program endeavors and hinder any efforts towards the establishment of nuclear weapons by Iran in the future. As a matter of fact, the European Union has even declared its commitment to bring to a standstill the importation of oil by Iran. Kerr (2012, p. 3) posits that due to the inability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to authoritatively state that Iran has indeed pursued nuclear weapons or confirm that the nuclear program in Iran is intended for peaceful intents, the IAEA Board of Governors presented the Iran issue to the United Nations Security Council on the second month of the year 2006. By the first half of the year 2010 the council had adopted six resolutions regarding the issue of Iran and its nuclear programs.
Shear and Sanger (2013) claim that the American president Obama has indicated confidence that the sanctions and stringent unilateral measures imposed on Iran will eventually yield fruits and present the relevant international actors with the time that they require for diplomatic negotiations. The United States of America has been particularly relentless in impeding Iran’s nuclear program ventures. During the reign of former American president, George W. Bush, a series of Cyber attacks were launched on the major nuclear enrichment plant in Iran, with the code name Olympic Games. President Obama had done everything in his power to hasten these cyber attacks so as to buy the European union more time for negotiation with Iran.
5.0.0 The Future of Iran’s Nuclear Program
Based on the history of the Iranian nuclear weapon program as well as the recent activities by Iran regarding its nuclear pursuits, there are a number of predictions that can be made regarding the future of Iran’s nuclear program. Firstly, it is expected that the expenditure by the government of Iran on the nation’s nuclear program will increase greatly as a result of the sanctions and pressure put on Iran by the international community. Such an eventuality will in turn increase the contentiousness of the nuclear program issue amongst the general public in Iran. The outcome of this is expected to be a potential aggravation of the leadership issues and political differences that currently typify the nation of Iran. It is important to note that the tendency of Iran to incline towards a despot stand and only react after being exposed to the most intense pressure by the international community has been underpinned in recent days by the rising to power of the Revolutionary Guards who play a dominant role in the decision making process in the nation of Iran.
Secondly, as indicated by Chubin (2013) the support for the Iranian nuclear program will in the near future become more politicized. Since the year 2009 the different parties in Iran’s political scene have indicated a propensity towards inclining to hypocritical positions with the intention of keeping political rivals off balance.
Furthermore, although there have been many discussions regarding the issue of Iran’s nuclear program- both domestically and internationally- the ‘nuclear weapons’ element has rarely been mentioned. Discoveries in the future regarding this aspect of expenditure by the government Iran towards this end may further complicate the debate on Iranian nuclear program.
Another possible occurrence, in spite of the fact that it is highly unlikely, is that the United States of America or the nation of Israel may launch a military offensive in Iran with the intention of devastating Iran’s nuclear programs (Kile, 2005, p.130). According to Shear and Sanger (2013) the American president was recently quoted as stating the “There is a window, not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically”. In the event that time runs out for the international community to engage Iran in diplomatic negotiations, the idea of a military attack- which the Israeli nation has been inclined to for a long time- may be actualized. According to Herszenhorn (2013) the Israeli minister of strategic affairs claims that “Israel has already warned that the Iranians are exploiting the talks in order to play for time while making additional progress in enriching uranium for an atomic bomb… The time has come for the world to take a more assertive stand and make it unequivocally clear to the Iranians that the negotiations games have run their course” (Herszenhorn, 2013). The outcomes of such an eventuality are not easy to forecast. A major possibility is that the Iran may opt out of the Non Proliferation Treaty; the Iranian government may also take advantage of such an occurrence to incline towards even more blatant weapon programs.
This paper has described the history of nuclear activities in Iran as well as the current activities of Iran as regards nuclear pursuits. The security threat posed by Iran’s nuclear pursuits to the European community as well as the response of the European Union to the Iranian issue has also been analyzed in detail. Forecasts about the trends expected in Iran’s nuclear program in the future have been discussed in detail. The fact that the technical growth of Iran is very irregular implies that there is still time for the international community (European Union) to engage Iran in diplomacy with the intention of coming up with compromise pact. Such a pact must be able to strike a balance between responding to the fundamental political needs of Iran while at the same time steering away from rewarding Iran’s confrontational tendencies. As the issue of Iranian nuclear program rages on in the international realms the buck stops with the nation of Iran and its government. Only Iran can make a choice to continue being a revolutionary state willing to challenge the rest of the world or to finally rid itself of all the drama and controversy by settling down and abiding by the international law and pacts.
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